Just 2 weeks ago, North London Forever was being sung throughout the Emirates, as Arsenal went 4 points clear of Tottenham with 3 games remaining.
Then, the week of doom arrived, as we capitulated in the NLD and away to Newcastle.
It leaves a sour taste in the mouth, but looking back on the season, the progress we made has been very evident. We have also seen a number of youngsters raise their game to take us on the brink of Champions League football. The team has a clear tactical identity and a blueprint that we’re building towards.
Did Mikel Arteta make mistakes? Absolutely. Some will say that he’s lucky to be in this job after 2 full seasons of not securing Champions League football, but this is a pointless debate for now. He has just extended his contract and is here to stay – let’s live in the reality.
The problem with social media is that fans can be over the top, way too emotional after a game. Myself included. People immediately start speaking about doomsday scenarios ‘We’re finished’, ‘This club is being run to the ground’, etc.
In terms of objectives, this season is a failure in my opinion. Some felt that top 6 was the expectation and perhaps they’re right when you look at our team. However, with no European football to play, I wish we got that 4th spot. We nearly did and were a game away….
But let’s look forward. What does dwelling on a failure even achieve? We were angry then, perhaps we’re still scarred watching those lot pip us and secure Champions league football… But being miserable and sad about something beyond a point does more harm than good.
Let’s look forward to a brighter future. And that starts with the transfer window.
As someone that loves to follow the news and try and share bits from time to time, this Athletic article from December 2020 springs to mind.
It stated that Edu Gaspar believed this squad will be truly competitive only from the 2022/23 once our young squad has matured and the natural churn as regards squad turnover has occurred – and that is on course to be happening.
In addition to the young players maturing, Arsenal built the foundations of the team. Unlike Jurgen Klopp who prioritised sorting out his attack (Salah, Mane) first, Arteta has opted to build this team from the back. Aaron Ramsdale, Gabriel Magalhaes, Ben White, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Thomas Partey have all been signed in the last 2 summer windows and look set to form the core of this team.
The only ‘forward’ signing Arsenal made under Arteta was Willian who signed for free. In some ways, that did cost us in terms of our efficiency in front of goal. As per Understat, Arsenal had an xG of 63, but underperformed by 2 goals. Tottenham, on the other hand, exceeded their xG by over one.
If you look at it even closer, Alexandre Lacazette has been a major culprit – with an xG of 7.6, the Frenchman has only banged in 4. That’s unacceptable from any attacker, let alone your senior player who is supposed to lead a young core. Personally glad he’s not extending, as harsh as that sounds!
This transfer window is about adding the missing pieces in the starting 11. Arteta wants to evolve this team and implement a 4-3-3. I wouldn’t say I like to label it that way because our formations change based on the situation. However, the idea is to play with a lone pivot and 2 hybrid attacking midfielders in possession.
If you followed me, you’d know how much I’ve backed Granit Xhaka. Love him to bits. However, he doesn’t have the profile to play as the #8 in a 4-3-3. This position requires someone who is good at ball reception, ideally proficient in beating a press and getting in and around the box to play a final ball/finish. At this moment, Youri Tielemans is the hottest link.
I actually think he’d be a good signing for us, especially at that price of £25m that’s being quoted around. His weakness is his lack of athleticism, which could be an issue over long distances. However, the left #8 typically is tasked with covering the left-back. Xhaka, who is also not the most athletic did that pretty well. So I believe Youri can do this too. Clearly defined defensive responsibility with a license to play around the final third. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really am getting behind this one!
Centre forward is very obvious and I think the question of whether we’ll sign one or two will depend a lot on the future of Eddie Nketiah. Gabriel Jesus has been heavily linked. The question is…. Jesus and Nketiah do have some similarities, so will Arsenal opt for him if he stays? I can see Eddie moving on and Arsenal looking to bring in a player who gives something different like a Calvert Lewin. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think we’ll look for one physical profile in addition to Jesus.
After the #8 and striker/wide forward, I can see Arsenal looking to raise the level of the squad. The Aaron Hickey links don’t surprise me at all. Feel free to check out my interview with Italian football expert Nima, who shared some fascinating insight on the player here. Someone that can play at a good level at left/right back, in addition to being young and hungry to grow… Interesting!
It will also be interesting to see if Arsenal gives Brooke Norton-Cuffy a chance. Some people seem to think he could be our answer to Trent Alexander Arnold/Reece James. 17 games in League one and he just turned 18 this year. Will be interesting to follow him in pre-season!
While Elneny has signed a new contract, I see Arsenal trying to bring in a player that can play Partey’s role if he’s unavailable. Someone that is cheap and reliable. We could do a lot worse than Florian Grillitsch who is available on a free this summer!
Matt Turner has already joined so the goalkeeping position is already sorted. I’m also intrigued to see if sign a Pepe replacement should we leave. We have signed Marquinhos, but it looks like he’s going to be loaned elsewhere.
My prediction for this window in addition to Marquinhos and Turner is:
- Gabriel Jesus – £50m
- Dominic Calvert Lewin – £35m
- Youri Tielemans – £25m
- Aaron Hickey – £20m
- Florian Grillitsch – Free
This, in addition to bringing back William Saliba would make it a pretty decent window. What could be the ‘level raiser’ is if we can bring in Tammy Abraham or Victor Osimhen over Calvert Lewin.
Charles Watts has confirmed our interest in Osimhen – let’s see what happens. That would be proper statement stuff!!
All in all, I expect us to move quicker with lesser ‘situations’ regarding the outs compared to previous seasons. Gaps areas are clear and squad size is thin.
Let’s add to the foundations and see where we go from there. Exciting times ahead.